We New Yorkers love our city, and we love to share it with our friends and family when they visit. If you live here long enough, you’ll rack up hundreds of miles walking your guests through Central Park and the Met Museum, and dozens of vertical miles riding elevators to skyscraper observation decks. Along with their amazement that we can so effortlessly navigate the subway, my visiting friends always ask—usually through labored breaths—”How do you walk so much every day?!” The answer is that I don’t; I’m walking this much to show you around the city, and it’s frankly exhausting! Wouldn’t it be nice to point out the sights of NYC without having to leave the dinner table?
Fortunately, there’s a way to get incredible views of the city and some of its most iconic attractions without wearing out your friends, or your feet—see it by boat! At AY, we do private sightseeing charters almost every day, and a majority of them are for New Yorkers who have cracked the code: they get to play tour guide to their friends without ever having to put down their glass of rosé.
Obviously, there are some points of interest that are impossible to see unless you’re on land—Central Park is invisible from the water (unless you’re on a rowboat in the lake) but here are five attractions that are actually more impressive when seen from offshore.
1.) Wall Street Heliport
Made famous by films like Wall Street and The Thomas Crown affair, the Wall Street Heliport is also the primary landing site for Marine One when The President of the United States visits the city. Even without a VIP guest security is fairly tight, but you can get a great view of it from the water, without a pat-down from TSA.
2.) The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray (George Washington) Bridge
If you’ve ever read the classic children’s book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward, you might be surprised to learn that both actually exist! While you can access the lighthouse (and the bridge, obviously) by land, it’s not easy, and sailing under the bridge brings a whole new perspective of the huge scale of this Progressive Era public works project. It’s a great destination for those visitors who need a break from the energy of downtown.
3. Hudson Yards
Photo: Garret Zigler via Flikr
This massive new cluster of skyscrapers off 34th St. on Manhattan’s West Side is built literally on top of still-working rail lines. Sure, you can wait in line to take a stroll on “Vessel,” the gilded, mile-long stairway sculpture at the center of the complex, or you can sail by, take all the pictures you want, and not waste half an hour accidentally waiting in line for the MegaBus to Philly, which boards just a block away.
4. Tribute in Light
Every year, on the anniversary of September 11, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum shines 88 searchlights in two vertical columns as an act of remembrance of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. While on a clear night the lights are visible from over 60 miles away, there’s a reflective solemnity that comes from seeing the display while quietly sailing along the shore of Lower Manhattan on the Hudson River.
5.) Manhattan Skyline
Photo: Juan Rubiano via Flikr
When you first get dropped in the middle of Manhattan, it’s easy to feel like a rat in a maze. It’s hard to get a sense of the scale—the grandeur—of our city. That grandeur is easy to see from the water. From there, you can see every sky scraper that megalomaniacal 20th Century corporate kingpins erected to dominate the skyline the way they’d dominated the market. Contrast these with the modern supertall luxury buildings like 432 Park Ave. which, when it sold, was the most expensive residential real estate in the world. But the cumulative effect is more than a bunch of shiny shrines to corporate aspiration, it’s a marvel of human striving, ambition, and ingenuity. And it’s a perspective that’s only possible when you take a step back.
6.) Statue of Liberty
No trip to the city—some would say the country—would be complete without seeing one of the most famous statues in the world. While you can take a ferry to Liberty Island to see this American icon, you’ll be so close you’ll basically be looking up Lady Liberty’s robe. For the best view, cruise by on a boat just as the sun’s setting behind the statue in the west. We make this trip dozens of times every summer, and the view never gets old.